No Burqas Behind Bars

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For women sentenced to a life in one of the most restrictive societies in the world, sometimes prison is the only place where they can feel ... free. No one forces them to cover their faces here, and far from the terror suffered at the hands of their families, they can dream, make plans for the future, and raise their children. The majority of the women at Afghanistan’s Takhar Prison are serving out lengthy sentences for fleeing their homes or for adultery. Many of them were sold as children to their husbands’ families (like the heroine of Nima Sarvestani’s previous documentary; his newest film is in some ways a continuation of I Was Worth 50 Sheep). Nearly every one of the women has a story to tell about the terrifying violence they suffered at the hands of their husband or family. Of course, a system that sentences women to more than a decade in prison for fleeing their home is inhuman. Paradoxically, however, in prison, these women find themselves under the care of the state for the first time in their lives. As their sentences get closer to the end, their insecurity grows – their husbands might think that 10 years in prison is not enough to atone for their escape. The only thing that will save the family’s honor in such cases is the unfaithful woman’s death. None of these women will come back to prison – recidivism would be a death sentence for them, which visitors plainly admit. One of the women, who is having a secret affair with a lover held in the men’s wing of the prison, is planning to start a new life somewhere far from home. While we may root for her dreams to come true, the chance that she will be able to break free of the cycle of honor violence is extremely slim.

It is always difficult to return to reality after serving out a sentence, but freedom is usually associated with hope. But what sort of freedom can the women of Takhar Prison hope for? (kw)
No Burqas Behind Bars / Za kratami nie nosimy burek  
77 ' , 2012 Sweden / cinematography: Rozette Ghadery / editing: Jesper Osmund / production: Nima Film